FOCUS: Malaysians lured and beaten and verbally abused by job scammers abroad tell of nightmares
HIGH RANSOM TO RELEASE
Not only did the victims not receive the lucrative salaries they were promised, their families had to shell out huge sums of money to secure their release.
MCA’s Mr Chong said some victims even paid as much as $20,000 to be freed from their captors.
In the cases handled by Mr. Ooi, the ransom has increased to about RM100,000 from RM20,000 last year.
One street vendor, who wished to be known only as Tan, said he was desperate for a job as his income has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Malaysia was under the Movement Control Order (MCO) at the time, the 26-year-old from Johor Bahru said he entered Thailand illegally in July last year for a job at a casino.
He was taken to Mae Sot, which borders Myanmar. From there he was taken to Myanmar, where he was held in a multi-office building.
He said there were around 80 to 90 other Malaysians there at the time.
His captors demanded that he scam people on the phone. He wasn’t beaten for lack of goals, but was forced into exercises like sit-ups and push-ups.
“I didn’t want to cheat anyone,” he said, adding that there were some Malaysians who had been there for two years but didn’t want to come back because of the money they made cheating on others.
Tan was only released in Mae Sot after his family paid his kidnappers RM50,000 in ransom.
He spent a month in detention at Thailand’s immigration authorities before Thai police sent him to the Malaysian border in July this year.
Despite the money lost in the scam, Tan felt lucky compared to another Malaysian Goi Zhan Feng, 23, who reportedly died in a hospital in Mae Sot after allegedly being abused by a human trafficking syndicate in Myanmar.
The senior student at a teacher training institute reportedly went to Bangkok for vacation in January but found himself trafficked to Myanmar.
“WE NEED TO ACT FAST”: CAMBODIA MINISTER
The Cambodian government has taken action against the syndicates after drawing regional attention to the crimes.
According to the Khmer Times, Cambodia’s Interior Minister Sar Kheng said the growing number of human trafficking, human trafficking and sex trafficking cases in Preah Sihanouk province needed to be addressed urgently.
He said authorities must adhere to three principles — rescue victims, crack down on crime scenes, and arrest perpetrators.
“We must act quickly. Our kingdom’s image and reputation are at stake,” he was quoted as saying.
VOD, an independent Cambodian news portal, reported that authorities had carried out a series of bailouts and raids on fraudulent facilities, removed dozens of foreign workers and arrested some supervisors.
The portal also said that Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities have ordered all building owners and managers to report all foreigners staying and working on their premises. The information must be registered with the police before September 24.
Building owners will be asked to sign a document assuring their workers have visas and clear contracts.
It has also been reported that the Cambodian government is holding high-level meetings on the issue.
Mr Terrence Fung, 39, and Mr Lo Vui Lun, 23, were among those trapped in Cambodia. They were roommates when they were held by syndicates in Sihanoukville earlier this year and then when they were held at a Cambodian immigration depot.
They returned to Malaysia last month and ended their nightmare in Cambodia, where they were occasionally tasered for failing to meet cheating targets.
Both entered Cambodia illegally via Thailand. They were also offered $3,000 salaries to work in casinos.
Mr Fung said while there was a casino downstairs, the fraud operations centers were on the upper floors of the building.
He claimed that he had never cheated on anyone and that when he called for job inquiries he would say he was busy.
“I didn’t want to lie to anyone and involve them in my predicament,” he said.
He said it was almost impossible to run and escape as there were armed bodyguards everywhere.
After Mr Chong intervened, both Mr Fung and Mr Lo were rescued by Cambodian authorities and taken to the immigration office, where they were detained for nearly three months before being allowed to return to Malaysia. They didn’t have to pay a ransom.